Of course I bought this book. Of course I read it in my car in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble. Of course I get that shiver when I look at the cOf course I bought this book. Of course I read it in my car in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble. Of course I get that shiver when I look at the cover, at Charlie, at the children that are screaming/crying in joy/terror. Of course....more
“A good book is an event in my life.” ― Stendhal, The Red and the Black
I don’t like to write reviews of books themselves. I like to write reviews of m“A good book is an event in my life.” ― Stendhal, The Red and the Black
I don’t like to write reviews of books themselves. I like to write reviews of my experience reading books. Like a diary entry. I feel it’s important.
Where do I start with this one?
Where can I start?
From the beginning, I guess.
I have a mildly interesting history with Stephen King, most of it irrelevant and made up by my adolescent imagination. You see, my maiden name is King. And my father is Stephen King. I’ve heard all the jokes and have been frequently referred to as “Stephen King’s daughter” by my friends and other kids growing up. That doesn’t mean much in itself, but it did birth a bit of a unspoken connection with Sai King in my young mind. It means I approach any King-related product with a sort of faithful reverence. An ingrained bias.
The way that my best friend convinced me to read this book was to tell me reading it was like reading about “seven little Jakes.” Jake, meaning Jake (‘Bama, do it please ya) Chambers, my very very very favorite character from the Dark Tower series.
I knew even while I was reading this that IT was already one of my favorite books. I see so many reviews on this site where people say, “This is my favorite Stephen King book,” or “One of my favorite Kings.” Well, banana-heels, this is one of my favorite books, period. No need to lessen it by quantifying it as a “Stephen King book.” There is an implied tone with that sentiment, the implication being that it’s somehow separate from other books because (as Patty Uris thinks) it is a horrorbook. I’m here to tell you to shut your mouth and let it speak for itself. Beep beep.
From the day I read the first page to the day I read the last, closing it tightly to my chest and heaving great sobs, was 7 months and 1 day.
Yes, I put it down for great stretches of time. I restarted it four or five times, intimidated by it’s heft and never feeling like I could give it the time and attention that I wanted to or that it deserved. Life has taught me that there’s nothing like the first time. The Dark Tower taught me the value of the journey over the destination. What I wouldn't give to go back and read The Dark Tower again for the first time! Or Harry Potter. So the very last thing I wanted to do was to rush this experience.
Even though 7 months passed between the first page and the last, I truly read IT over the course of one feverish month, and of that, two full weeks of nothing but IT. Because I couldn’t help myself. I bought the book, eBook, and audiobook so I could read it wherever and whenever I wanted. I was prepared. I took so many notes.
I love everything about this story, even the “boring” parts. I love the Losers. I love that they cuss and insult each other and aren’t offended and just laugh. I love that the adults just don’t understand them; that the adults are, in fact, afraid of them and their youthful effervescence. I love how much Ben loves the library. I love Richie’s “traitor mouth.” I love and feel so sorry for Eddie (whose mother is the Dolores Umbridge of Derry). Fuck yeah Beverly, you secret feminist icon! Mike and his interludes, especially the first one re: Can an entire city be haunted? I love Stan’s “ordered mind” and how it’s so obvious that he has a touch of the Shine to him. And Stuttering Bill...oh, Big Bill, I love you. I was astounded by all the mentions of the Turtle, and was reminded by my best friend that this book was released before the Turtle was ever mentioned in The Dark Tower series, which blew my mind even further because what did people think was going on?
I felt the need to literally announce that I was reading this book and being truly affected by it. I posted on social media about it. I needed to know that I had people around me that had read this, that would understand, or at the very least be sensitive to the fact that I was having a life-changing experience. I needed it.
There was a moment, when I was preparing myself to read the Reunion, when I had two epiphanies that have made a lasting impression.
Lately while watching TV/movies, reading books, and the general living of life, I’ve started (slowly at first, then faster lately) identifying more with the adults in stories than I have with the kids. It’s my sign that—try as I might to stop it—I am finally growing up, and it’s sad and terrible and frightening because I was never going to do that, you see. I was going to remember the magic of childhood forever. I was determined. On my thirteenth birthday I ran around my apartment with a towel tied around my neck like a superhero because I'll be damned if I was going to let age make me old. But life gets in the way, say sorry. Say true. It hurts.
But IT has given me a great gift. With IT I found myself identifying more with the kids. And it was relieving and exhilarating because it means I still can. That epiphany brought me to tears, and paved the way for the second one.
When I was about to go with Bill into Jade of the Orient, my heart was pounding. After all of it, all 490 pages until that point, they were finally meeting again face to face for the first time since childhood. I was nervous. I was not ready to see them all together as grown-ups, because fuck grown-ups! Where my Losers at? My throat was tight. “We grew up, [Bill] thought. We didn’t think it would happen, not then, not to us. But it did, and if I go in there it will be real: we’re all grownups now.” In that moment I was Bill. If I continued reading, if I went in there, then it would be real. If I put the book down right then then the Losers would stay forever kids to me. A panic was starting to rise in me that I didn’t understand fully right away.
Bill walked through the doors after hesitating, and had this little mirage: “Perhaps it was simply the dimness of the room that caused the illusion, which lasted for only the briefest moment, but Bill wondered later if it wasn’t some sort of message meant strictly for him: that fate could also be kind. In that brief moment it seemed to him that none of them had grown up, that his friends had somehow done a Peter Pan act and were all still children.”
It was the Peter Pan that got me, that had me crying, that catapulted me out of the black and into the blue. That panic. I’d identified the panic I was feeling. Not terror, no. The panic came when I realized that this 1156 page tome in my hands had suddenly gone from being too long to too short. That change was palpable. I could see clearly now the rain was gone, my friends.
In the end I went into the private room at Jade of the Orient and had the reunion dinner with my friends, my Losers. And it was sad and wonderful. One of my favorite scenes.
The horrors here, Pennywise and all It's forms, are incredible. Truly scary (there were many moments that I listened to this audiobook while walking my neighborhood IN THE DARK and spent almost the entire walk trying to look in all directions at once and giving myself a wide berth from the drains) but that aspect of the story isn’t what changed my life. It’s wonderfully, delightfully frightening but what really got under my skin and into my soul was the way King writes about childhood, and friendships, and the unfortunate devastating reality of growing up.
“That’s the scary part. How you don’t stop being a kid all at once, with a big explosive bang, like one of that clown’s trick balloons with the Burma-Shave slogans on the sides. The kid in you just leaked out, like the air out of a tire. And one day you looked in the mirror and there was a grownup looking back at you. You could go on wearing bluejeans, you could keep going to Springsteen and Seger concerts, you could dye your hair, but that was a grownup’s face in the mirror just the same. It all happened while you were asleep, maybe, like a visit from the Tooth Fairy.”
After I finished this book, that night, my very best friend in the whole wide world--my Ka-mate--came over and we got drunk and talked about this story and watched the It miniseries together. It had to happen that way.
I love you, Losers. I love you so much. I will remember you, even if you don't remember me....more